Bon Voyage, from Dead Claire

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There’s a pile of Sympathy cards on my daughter’s coffee table, spilled out on the floor. She’s got a nice dry red in a stemless wine glass. It matches her eyes. I’ve been dead for three weeks. She misses me. So does my cat. My son thinks the whole thing is silly, but to be honest, even when I was alive I suspect he indulged more than understood me.

My husband of fifty-two years is off with his new bride. She’s fourteen years his junior, and at this rate, he’ll be dead in six months too. “And the winner is…” My daughter reaches into the pile and draws out a card with a picture of a suffering Jesus. She can’t do it. She knows that anyone who would send a suffering Jesus card to a dead Jew doesn’t deserve to win a free trip. She cheats and tosses that card aside. It’s why I love her: her morality transcends.

“And the winner is…” This time she draws out a nice card. Yellow paper, recycled. A simple message inside. It’s from a lady I haven’t seen in thirty years. Bon Voyage, from Claire! Instead of a $10,000 funeral, I’m having a lottery for a dream vacation, to be drawn by my daughter three weeks from the date of my demise…assuming I have a net worth that exceeds $10K at the time. The rules are simple. First, wait until I die. Early entries are permanently disqualified via a nasty letter. Second, get a nice card. Not a free one from some charity that begs for money on the back.

Anyone who is indicted for putting me in my grave is ineligibile, unless of course, the person is acquitted in a court of law, or (worst case scenario) if my murderer was not properly Mirandized and must be released. I am being buried with my ACLU card, and it would serve me right. You don’t have to have known me, or been a client, or know my husband, who by now is with that young gold-digger. You don’t even have to justify why you want your trip or tell me who you are taking along.

You do have to specify a destination. You don’t have to name a city, but you do have to name a region. The South of France will suffice. France will not. I want you to have a dream, a vision of your destination, not just stop your thumb on a spinning globe. The winner will have to make her own reservations: air, car, train, boat, whatever, within six weeks of the award. You must book your own hotel, chalet, RV, cabin or yurt. My daughter will be happy to pull the winning entry, but she’s not your travel agent.

You have one year from the date of my death to complete your trip. If you do not complete your trip by that date, the money goes to my son, who thinks this is a stupid idea. At that point, he’d be right. The remainder of your $10,000 Dead Claire Lottery Ticket will be remitted in the form of traveler’s cheques to be remitted as a daily stipend. All funds must be spent on the trip. I ought to know, from where I am that you can’t take it with you.

No one likes funerals, except maybe Harold and Maude. And my mother, who, at 85, is a reluctant but articulate funeral connoisseur. I refuse to force my family, friends and loyal clients to risk their lives on Montana’s highways just to get to a gathering that everyone wants to end. Life’s a trip, ain’t it? Bon Voyage, from Claire!